LiA Showcase

For my LiA project, I worked with Think Pacific out in Fiji to complete their 'Environment and Sustainability project'. Heres my showcase to give some insight into my experience and time out on the other side of the world :).
LiA Showcase
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Bula!

Before travelling out to Fiji, pretty much from the minute that I received my email confirming my place with Think Pacific (TP) to participate in the Environment and Sustainability project as part of my LiA summer I was unimaginably excited. My almost indescribable sense of excitement stemmed from 3 reasons:

By writing an article/blog about my experience

1. I was granted the opportunity to visit one of my bucket list locations, a place I’d only ever really dreamed about since I was little (as cringe as it sounds it's true!)

2. Working with Think Pacific and Laidlaw meant that I would be truly immersed in the Fijian culture and community, living with a host family for the entirety of the 6 week project.

3. My work on Environment and sustainability project meant that I was presented with the chance to apply all my degree and academic learning this far, to practical applications and get hands-on insight into cultures that will feel the first devastating impacts of climate change.

All of my anticipation and excitement were combined with a degree of uncertainty, as I was awaiting being thrown into the unknown of a new culture, climate, and work pace of life but this only added to my eagerness to get stuck in and embrace the challenges which lay ahead for the next 6 weeks.

After a short flight across the world… I landed in Fiji and all of my prior expectations

were totally blown out of the water experiencing the land, people, food, and ‘Fiji Time’ in person! It’s almost indescribable in a way how much life experience and lessons I learned both consciously and unconsciously through my brief time living in Fiji but I’ll try my best to give you a quick glimpse into my experience.

Our project was based in Rarabasaga village, in the Nadroga Navosa province, located inland on the biggest island of Fijis 362, Viti Levu. Getting onto our project work: our group of 16 TP volunteers worked in collaboration with the local Fijian NGO Alliance for Future Generations (AFG) to facilitate daily workshops from 9am-12:00am (Fiji time depending) Monday-Friday each week we spent in the village. Our workshops were aimed at engaging with the village youth (15-35 year olds) on a variety of topics from Climate change to global warming, oceans, natural disasters, sexual health, climate and gender and more. Every workshop covered a different topic and during each session, we held open discussions between the Rarabasaga youth, Laidlaw scholars and the AFG coordinators to learn more about how climate change will impact each of us differently and give an appreciation for the cultural differences between our groups so we could learn cross-culturally and actively improve our social and cultural intelligence particularly regarding climate issues.

Some of my highlights from village life must include the Fijian attitude to ‘kana’ (food) and kana va levu (eat more food!). Sundays, as the day of rest due to the strong religious aspects in the village, were also the ‘feast day’ therefore, some of my favourite days thanks to my trait as a bit of a foodie and the incredible meals that were cooked for us by the village nenes (mums) on the lovo (a pit dug into the ground with coal and stones heated by fire… so essentially an underground oven!). Such meals were served to us buffet style, with everyone sitting crosslegged side by side, with an abundance of various curries, wild pig, cassava, dahls and honestly the list could go on but I hope you get the picture that Fijian food on Sundays is unparalleled with a true community and family feel with everyone enjoying the feast together.

The Fijian concept of ‘Vanua’ was another aspect of the culture which fascinated me; the idea that everything and everyone belongs to the land from which they came and therefore, each person has the ultimate responsibility to protect it. As a biologist and environmentalist, this concept of Vanua is crucial and multilayered given the everpressing threat of climate change, so learning about it through discussions with the village youth was an opportunity most people won’t get and I am extremely fortunate to have had that experience, which gave me a broader understanding of the social effects that climate change will have hence, it has inspired me to work harder to do more to change this global issue.

Ultimately, the project did come with its many challenges; be that the pit toilets, sickness you will inevitably suffer due to the different diet, bucket showers, or the biggest bowls of plain rice you have ever seen for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on normal weekdays (… possibly the culprit for my love of Sundays) the mental and physical challenges which my fellow Laidlaw scholars and I faced and overcame were all worth it. The highs and lows combined were what truly tested us and made our Fijian experience life-changing (more cringe I’m sorry but totally true) through the life lessons we all learned experiencing such a rich, wonderful, family-orientated culture and the mental toughness everyone developed throughout tackling every challenge head-on as a team.

Kava or ‘grog’ for the slang term, is Fijis answer to the pub at the end of the day. A more relaxed, social environment where the locals drink Kava together from coconut bowls and ‘talanoa’ (tell stories) to each other. The pictures (above and below) are snapshots of two different kava ceremonies, grog time was definitely a highlight of my Fiji experience where we could openly talk to the villagers and relax with them creating better relationships and lasting friendships for life. Now I have a Fijian family too!

Leadership has many different aspects and the cultural and social experiences I gained throughout my project in Fiji have definitely helped me on my way to becoming a more ethical, globally aware individual and my own personal future leader.

Vinaka!

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